The ongoing scandal with “contamination” in ready meals in the UK reached new heights last night when it was revealed some Findus lasagne meals contained as much as 100% horse meat. Although obviously it’s the presence of an entirely different meat that’s grabbed the headlines, the real issue is the inclusion of veterinary drugs banned from the human food chain, specifically phenylbutazone, which used to be used in humans for rheumatoid arthritis and gout (it’s a pain suppressing anti-inflammatory). At least the side effects in humans are known and ‘bute, as it’s commonly known, was actually used in humans.
It does lead to a more interesting exploration of what is and isn’t allowed into meat products though. The Trading Standards website says:
There is no standard prescribed by law, but it is generally accepted that it should not contain more than 25% fat. If qualified by words such as ‘lean’ or ‘extra lean’, a fat content considerably less than this would be expected. Where a particular meat is named – such as ‘minced beef’ – there should be no other meats present. The use of additives in minced meat is prohibited.
By weight, a fairly significant percentage of frozen minced beef is also allowed to be water. Given that animals (us included) are mostly water, this is unsurprising, but it does mean often the actual meat content of frozen mince is usually comfortably less than 50% of the total by weight. And plenty of that is allowed to be tendon and other connective tissue.
From a minced meat point of view, I’d personally advise going to a good butchers because they actually mince their meat on premises. Yes it costs more, so buy less and bulk you meals out with something else. The Two Fat Ladies were strong proponents of eating a bit less of the full fat, full taste version of something and I’m strongly in favour of applying this to the meat we buy. Buy a smaller chicken that’s not been injected with water and binding agents, buy steak that’s been looked after properly from your butcher. Read up on what you’re buying- don’t be ignorant.
The next logical progression in the ever expanding scandal is the contamination of NHS catering supplies (and who knows what sort of medical issues unexpected drugs could cause here) and school dinners. This story isn’t going to go away is it?